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Showing posts from 2011

Heading home

I am cutting short my trip by a week so that I can attend my Aunt's funeral. I will write up the missing sections of the trip when I have settled back into UK life.

Another Interim update

I have moved on round the Gaspé peninsular and down the coast to Prince Edward Island spending the night at a campsite by the water in Summerville. It was an interesting night as the winds got up and changed direction by 180 degrees due to the nearby hurricane which is now touching down in Newfoundland to the north of here. I am leaving PEI by ferry tonight and will look for somewhere to stay when I get to Pictou in Nova Scotia. I have a lot of driving to do if I am to see Halifax, then get the ferry from Digby to across the Bay of Fundy to St John tomorrow! I aim to drive the 980km from Saint John to Montreal late on Sunday so that I can catch a bus down to New York on Monday morning.....

The map on the top IS up to date!
22nd. Drive to Yoho Nat Park, camping at Takakaaw Falls
The next morning we jumped back in our overwhelmingly underpowered Dodge Caliber with a very strange automatic gearbox and headed for the group of National Parks that make up the Canadian Rockies. Our aim was to get to Yoho National park and get a place in the Takkakaw camp ground from where we could undertake a 'four boot' walk as described in the book called 'Dont waste your time in the Canadian Rockies'. Highway 1 didn't disappoint us with the scenery. We stopped in Golden for some coffee and perfect cinnamon buns and were entertained by the very un pc owner with tales of the two season, winter and construction, and the pros and cons of immigration! I spotted a Drascombe lugger on a trailer and chatted to it's owner. He was a very British expat, with an incredibly bulbous nose, and had found it for sale in California and brought it up to BC. We continued on to Revelstoke and then glacier National Parks …

21st August. Drive to Salmon Arm... Cabin... Beer and food :-)

After leaving the BC Hydro campsite  we continued on the amazingly scenic Highway 99 for a short distance before heading south towards Lytton on Highway 12 as we crossed the river in Lillooet. Once again we were driving down a vast valley fringed with high mountains but this time the valley was covered in golden rolling fields of grazing punctuated with the occasional bright green irrigated oblong or circle. The soils looked very light and erodible and the river had cut a deep gouge through the loess leaving pale cliffs with relatively flat areas either side. This road gets closed in winter because of landslides and avalanches and there was a team clearing a small rock fall from one particularly unstable portion. 
At Lytton the Fraser river is joined by the Thomson river and there are a proliferation of white water rafting companies offering the thrill of a lifetime...  We turned north on Highway 1 and after about 15 mins drive stopped at a small resort, at White Canyon, which also s…

Lagging behind....

Dear all, I realise that I am not keeping up with my travels very well... But now I have added a map which shows where I have been and where I am at the moment... Almost anyway! I have just spent four days with my cousins Isabel and Anil in Toronto which was a great place to relax a bit and plan the final push to the Atlantic coast. I shall be in Québec on Saturday after spending two nights in Montreal. I hire a car in Québec and will do a weeks sightseeing covering as much ground as possible but aiming to include the biggest tides in the worl around the Bay of Fundy, Halifax and Prince Edward Island as well as a drive around the Gaspé Peninsular.. Keep watching this space!

19th Aug. Vancouver - Whistler

19th Aug. Vancouver - WhistlerWe packed up our stuff and stored it at the hostel before going in search of the car. The email from Canadian Affair gave an address which only had two empty car hire units, neither of which were Avis. We had to stop for refreshments at a Starbucks (much to my horror and boys delight!) to browse the Internet and find the correct address before managing to walk past the place! Eventually we got hold of the car and drove up the 7 levels of the basement garage to the street and back to the hostel to collect our bags. Once loaded we set off tentatively through the afternoon traffic and headed out of Vancouver through Stanley Park and across the Bridge towards Horseshoe Bay and on up Highway 93 towards Whistler. As promised by Jane, the views were astounding, ever-changing views as we travelled along Highway 99, the Sea to Sky Highway, clinging to the side of the rocky margins of what is really a fjord which ends at Squamish but continues to keep you entran…

18th Aug Grouse Mt

18th Aug Grouse Mt
We ventured across the water to North Van and Grouse Mt to undertake the infamous Grouse Mt Grind....a 1000ft direct ascent of the Vancouver playground (skiing during winter, hiking, biking and zip lining during summer).
As we went up to the base of the climb on a bus, we were overtaken by and ambulance and fire truck which we then found at the base of the trail after a visitor had had a heart attack about half way up the path. This turned out to be a blessing,for us at least, as we had to find an alternative route, the BCMC, which was not the straight line up the mountain but a much nicer route through the forest away from the teasing view of the gondola zooming up and down overhead. We arrived at the top in good shape and headed straight for the cafeteria! Large cold drinks and chips went down vey well :-)We then joined the large number of slightly less fit people in a wander around the 'attractions' at the top of the mountain. There is an enclosure where…

16th Aug Vancouver.

16th Aug Vancouver.
Matt and Nick arrived at YVR at 11:30 and once they were through customs and immigration I had to feed them at Burger King... Not what I was expecting but I refused to take them to McD's (throughout their two weeks here!). We bought some normal price transit tickets at the domestic terminal saving $15 for the trip into town (there is a $5 'Airport departure tax if you buy the tickets at the station!) and made our way to the Cambie Hostel where I had stayed the previous night to offload luggage and shower before I took them to Canada Place for a nice lunch then round the corner to the park where Nick fell asleep on the grass. An early bed at about 21:00.17th Aug Vancouver.
We did a mega shop at MEC (Mountain Equipment Co-op) buying a replacement spork for me, freeze dried food, tons of energy bars, a 3 man tent, sleeping mats, some Keen walking shoes for Nick, a couple of dry bags, a buff for Matt and some gas for my stove taking it all back to the hostel befo…

15th August and I arrived back in Vancouver regretting the rash decision to eat a Wendy's burger at Seattle airport... I had 40 minsto get some food and there were queues everywhere so I plumped for the quickest option.... not a good one.

15th August and I arrived back in Vancouver regretting the rash decision to eat a Wendy's burger at Seattle airport... I had 40 minsto get some food and there were queues everywhere so I plumped for the quickest option.... not a good one.A Tim Horton's iced capuchino and blueberry muffin at YVR restored me to my normal self! I made my way to Gastown and the Cambie Hostel that I had booked before leaving for Alaska. It is a busy hostel with it's own bar and bakery where you get you breakfast of coffee and muffin or for an extra $2.75 you get a cooked breakfast! It was at least 10 deg C warmer in Vancouver than Anchorage and the four person dorm was sweltering. One dorm member stayed up very late booking flights on his laptop and then left very early so not much sleep... NOTE: I know that I am two weeks behind in my blog but will endeavor to catch up soon! I am having a busy time driving, camping and hiking the Canadian Rockies with Matthew and Nicholas.
Sent from my iPa…

Bettles to Vancouver in 24hrs (14th-15th Aug)

Bettles to Vancouver in 24hrs (14th-15th Aug)We left Bettles for the 15 min flight back to Prospect Creek in an Arctic Airways twin engined plane, crammed with almost all our luggage and with Hannah in the copilots seat. The remaining luggage would be flown on the same plane to Fairbanks for us to pick up lat in the day.Once back at the cars we crammed ourselves in and headed home, I joined Tim in his car and we set off for Fairbanks and Anchorage 500 miles away. We stopped for a late lunch and refuel at the Yukon crossing on the Dalton Highway (hamburgers and all things bad!).Mike and I craftily hijacked Tim's car and his cd collection leaving Tim and Michelle to play movies in their car to keep the 4 younger members of the expedition happy and occupied. Mike drove the road to Fairbanks where we collected the luggage from an almost closed Airways hanger at the edge of the airport. A quick refuel and we continued on to Anchorage. Tim and Michelle left us far behind and we had int…

Mon 8th Aug. Float day 1

Mon 8th Aug. Float day 1
We woke to a dry day and started preparing the rafts. This took some time as we worked out how all the stuff would be divided between the rafts. It was a good thing that we had left some stuff behind as we seemed to be piled high as we set off down river and learnt the basics of raft control from T and M. We paddled hard to avoid the trees that have fallen into the water as they are undercut by the river, they are referred to as 'sweepers' or 'widow makers'. We didn't travel far before we stopped to set up camp as we had started quite late. FD2 Tues 9th Aug
We struck camp and went for a hike up the hills behind us. We started through Sitka spruce with deep moss and some alder undergrowth then as we moved up the slope we lost most of the Sitka and the bushy alder became predominant with blue berry, cranberries, crowberries underneath. Then the alder disappeared and we were left with the moss and stunted fruit bushes making a very soft base t…

Wolverine creek (67.61265N, 152.26408W) from my tent at midnight on the 9th Aug.

Wolverine creek (67.61265N, 152.26408W) from my tent at midnight on the 9th Aug.This is day two of our river float down the John river.Fairbanks to Bettles. Sat 7th Aug
After meeting up with Tim and Michelle in Fairbanks on Saturday we drove North in convoy along the Dalton Highway which will be familiar to those who watch 'Ice road truckers'!! The majority of the road is gravel and snakes it's way north through rolling hills of stunted Sitka spruce and tundra. The road stays mostly on the ridge lines, occasionally dropping down to the water courses where the road is usually heavily patched and bumpy as t it sinks in the boggy ground. The alaskan oil pipeline snakes alongside, usually within a mile of the road raised up off the ground on pillars each with radiator vanes on top to stop heat being transferred down and melting the permafrost. We crossed the mighty Yukon river on a long sloping bridge surfaced with timber and filled the cars with fuel at a pump that had a …

6 Aug - Now in Fairbanks

6 Aug - Now in Fairbanks after a day in Denali park where we saw wolf, hoary marmot, moose, caribou, ground squirrel, ptarmigan and a lot of wet people! We took a bus into the park and hopped off at Polychrome where we hiked up a hill to 1300ft and had lunch looking out over cloud covered, snow dusted mountains while we were dusted with large flakes of snow ourselves.We had a view of Mt McKinley on our way north. We stopped in Nenana to pick up some breakfast to supplement the cold pizza from the night before!The laundry is on, Tim and Michelle are arriving soon, we will stock up with pasta, rice etc etc and then motor north as far as we can, camping on the way if it gets too late to reach Coldfoot at a reasonable time tonight.Next update is likely to be after we have completed the river trip in a weeks time! bye for now.
Sent from my iPad

3rd-6th August

3rd-6th August Set off from Anne's house, 10 people in two cars, and headed north. I traveled with Anne and her two children, Corbin 4 and Harlow 14 months. The cars were crammed with cool boxes full of camping stoves, utensils and an assortment of bear defences ranging from bells through pepper spray to a tazer. We drove for about an hour before stopping at a giant roadside stall of fireworks. There are a whole series of these at this point as it is just outside the city jurisdiction where it is illegal to sell or let off fireworks. There were a couple of old split screen VW Combis, a double decker bus with a scoreboard dated 1776 and the score USA 1: UK 0.
Having resisted the temptation to buy giant rockets and multiple mortar launchers (Mike couldn't and bought a whole load of pyrotechnics), we continued on to Byers creek camping ground at mile 144 and set up camp with two large tents and my little one, with a large tarp set up over the camp table next to the fire circle.…

Tues 2nd August 2011 (63.746N 150.1196W)

Tues 2nd August 2011 (63.746N 150.1196W)The 1st of August was mostly a day for shopping and stocking up ahead of our trip to Denali and on to the Gates of the Arctic National Park. The
Kenyan Thomas's and I love REI... But it is dangerous kind of attraction! REI is an outdoor equipment store on a vast scale. Everything you have ever dreamed of for your biking, hiking, camping and climbing needs and loads of stuff I didn't know existed but instantly know I ought to have! I was very restrained bearing in mind that I am limiting my luggage to 15kg, so only bought some gas for my stove, a gps and a replacement for the hat I left in Glacier Bay. When I say hat, I mean a Seattle Sombrero which is wide brimmed, breathable, and waterproof. I gather that Seattle is much like any of the north west coast of N America in that it rains a lot... I am writing this from inside my tent at 22:45 and it has been raining since I woke up this morning in Anchorage!Back to yesterday. After satisf…

Anchorage day 2 - 30/7/2011

Anchorage day 2 - 30/7/2011Got up at a very reasonable time of 09:00 and had a light breakfast, Twining's Irish Breakfast Tea and bread with orange raspberry jam, before venturing out on one of Tim's bikes to explore the parks leading down to the coast. There are very good bike/pedestrian paths alongside almost all roads and through the parks. I headed down the Chester Creek trail to Westchester Lagoon and on to the Coastal Trail. Red necked grebes were just sitting around waiting for me on the lagoon. This is a manmade lagoon with a 5.5 acre area below the dam which is tidal. The sluice has a white plastic threshold and is illuminated at night so that the salmon can be counted as the swim up the restored stream and into the lagoon. I spoke to the volunteer and he said that the intention was to have a webcam set up to allow remote access for the volunteers but that that was not ready to deploy yet. The salmon run has not started in earnest but is expected to start in this str…

Friday 29th July 2011

Friday 29th July 2011
Woke up thinking that I really should check my flight, it was either departing at 12:10 or perhaps 10:12... Quick dash to repack, do my Hostel chore and call a taxi to get me to the airport for the 10:12 flight 61 to Anchorage via Yakutat and Cordova!Had a breakfast of coffee and cookie and checked my emails. My choice of the flight, with stopovers, was good as we have been getting great views of the mountains and vast ice fields feeding innumerable glaciers which have large out wash fans stretching miles across the plains that separate the mountains from the sea. The airports at Yakutat and Cordova are little more than a runway and a small collection of buildings with a few bush planes on oversized tyres parked up. It is quite suprising that this flight is the first time I have encountered the grossly obese Americans we all hear about. Two very large people have squeezed their way down the aisle here in Cordova. There is a lady in the seat in front of me, well s…

More photos to go with the text

Follow this https://picasaweb.google.com/ampthillmark/NAmerica?authkey=Gv1sRgCOqanv_TuN2luwE for the photo album to go with the blog

Return to Juneau 27-7-2011

Return to Juneau 27-7-2011 I ate my breakfast on the beach with the usual accompaniment of about six humpbacks feeding on the krill and small fish. I reluctantly packed up camp intending to take a walk along Bartlett's cove to look for Black bears. Luckily I asked at the Lodge when the bus for the ferry was leaving and found that it was an hour earlier than I had been planning for. Took the free green bus the ten miles to the port at Gustavus along with about 30 other campers and guests of the Lodge. The the Le Conte was docked already and we were allowed on straight away which was good as it had started raining and they have not yet built a shelter for passengers. Once on board, I got a seat in the viewing lounge and then went in search of lunch! Halibut and chips went down well then I went back to my seat and promptly fell asleep only waking at Juneau four hours later! By now it was raining steadily. I was traveling with a Spanish guy called Jose who had just spent 14 days …

Trip round Glacier Bay 26-7-2011

Trip round Glacier Bay 26-7-2011

I had a good nights sleep waking first at 04:30 as the dawn broke but went back to sleep again till 06:30. Made it to the dock a 1/4 mile down the bay reedy to board The Baronoff Wind which is the my 6th boat in 6 days of travel. The shortest being the six hour trip it took to travel here from Juneau.! The boat is a cat built in 1986 in Washington, but designed in Australia,with 3 decks two enclosed and one open. Australia also seems to have a monopoly on life rafts for ferries. The weather was not good as we set off into mist limiting the visibility to 1/2
a mile but as we headed north and west up the bay it began to improve and by the time we got to South Marble island there was a break in the drizzle which meant we got good views of Stella sealions, sea otters, Tufted Puffin, Black legged kittiwake. Later on we saw Parasitic jaeger chasing black legged kittiwakes, Glaucous-winged gulls, Bonaparte gulls, marbled and Kittlitz's murelettes, pidg…

Monday 25th July Juneau - Glacier National Park

Monday 25th July Juneau - Glacier National ParkDespite packing before going to bed, getting up at 05:10 was difficult. I sleep very well but noticed that the bunk below me was empty... so maybe there was some snoring involved!I shared a taxi with two others who were going to the airport which is on the way to the ferry terminal. It was only on the way that I remembered that my nice warm coat and camera battery charger were still in the hostel! It turned out that the driver was going back to pick up the other five people in the hostel who were also going on the ferry so the day was saved! Reunited with my possessions we left Juneau at 07:00 in a smaller version of the ferry that brought me up from Prince Rupert. It was full and the only space left was in the solarium on the top deck, under the blazing heaters. It is a six hour voyage with a stop at Hoonah after four. I had oatmeal and maple syrup with a cup of tea for breakfast for $4.5. There were humpbacks performing in the bay at…

Juneau Sunday 24th July

Juneau Sunday 24th JulyAfter being dropped off at the hostel it took a little while for me to realize that it was shut until 17:00 and that there was a storage room round the back for luggage. Once I had dropped the bag off I went down town to try and find a way to get to Gustavus on Monday. On the way I found an outdoor shop and got a proper map of the Juneau area showing the route of 'hikes' up the mountains surrounding the town and the Mendenhall glacier which comes down into the northern suburbs of the town. Also remembered to get a gas canister for the stove. The sea front is totally dominated by the vast cruise ships which tower over the town. It seems that the passengers generally don't stray more than a street or two on foot but are busses en masse to the various attraction before getting back for their obligatory shopping in the mortise of jewelry and fur stores. Exactly the same ones that they get to see in Ketchikan and, I suspect, all the stops down the cruise…

Prince Rupert - Juneau Part 2

Prince Rupert - JuneauPart II: Ketchikan - Wrangell - Petersburg
Departed Ketchikan on time at 7pm. Steamed past the airport whose runway has seemingly been carved out of the side of a mountain and has precipitous sides which go down about 100 ft to the water... Not a place to run off the runway! Found the bar open but quite empty so tried out a couple of beers to keep the bartender company. Alaska IPA and Alaskan Summer Ale both from the micro brewery in Juneau. The IPA is 6.5% and has a good hoppy taste but is served cold and is slightly carbonated. The Summer Ale is a ' Kolsch style ale' and just another lager as far as I am concerned!Went for a final stroll round the decks before retiring to the reclining lounge which was more comfortable than the plastic pool loungers on the open and heated, yes, HEATED solarium!03:55 24th July.
Woke as we left Wrangell but back to sleep until we got to Petersburg. The approach to Petersburg was through a very narrow channel. The town loo…

Prince Rupert - Juneau Part 1

Prince Rupert - Juneau
Now aboard the MV Mat... and back an hour just by stepping onboard! That means it was a 4:30 rather than the 5:30 am start, it could be a long day...The weather has reverted to drizzle which is normal for this part of the world.Yesterday was gloriously sunny and warm. It was the perfect day to take a trip aboard a RIB and watch Grizzly bears. The trip cost a lot, but 6 hrs of cruising at 35-40knts through islands and narrow channels and then close up viewing of mother bears and cubs. They are BIG! They were right down at the waters edge munching endlessly on the sawgrass that grows on the alluvial fans. We 1st saw a mother and single cub. They were wandering slowly along a fairly narrow stretch of grass munching all the time. The cub looked out of place because it had a pale head with black ears and eye patches... a panda! We moved on past the floating green Park Rangers hut nestled at the foot of a steep wooded slope that extended up behind to 1000 ft or more…

Port Hardy-Prince Rupert

Port Hardy-Prince Rupert
The 4:30 start was difficult! I slept well on the top bunk of a dormitory with 2 others. Cup of coffee and a quick wash before we,about 10 hostelers, passembled outside the hostel under the orange glow of street lamps in a fine drizzle waiting for the classic yellow school bus to pick us up (CAD$7.5). The bus toured round the small hotels and hostels before heading to the ferry terminal. Bags and passengers were checked in, to be collected in PR, and we were let on board at 6:15. I had paid CAD$ 35 to reserve a seat in the Aurora lounge. My seat is a very comfortable reclining leather(?), front row seat with a great panoramic view over the bows.8:35
Heading out past Scarlett point and pine island to cross Queen Charlotte sound with a slight swell coming in from the NW.Took advantage of the all you can eat breakfast buffet in the restaurant. Staffordshire pottery, fresh linen, flowers on the table and polite efficient service. Spotted a couple of porpoises and…

Horseshoe Bay -Port Hardy

Horseshoe Bay -Port Hardy
Leg I :The Burrard Inn to Main st Greyhound bus station.
Alarm went off at 0510 quick wash and brush up then cramming everything into the rucksacks before heading downstairs to settle the bill... An expensive, if comfortable, stay in a recently revamped 1950s motel. All clean white walls with minimalist furniture but a very comfy bed. And a large Mac for the guests to use and print from free of charge. Free wifi to but No meals..Having paid the bill I set of down Burrard towards the waterfront and took the SkyTrain to Main. Checked inat the Greyhound desk.. like an airport, amain bag got weighed in at 36lbs. The sky was lightening and the drizzle seemed to be setting in. The ride to Horseshoe Bay Terminal takes about 15 mins and then we were escorted through the ferry check in by the bus driver. I followed the general flow of people onto the ferry and ended up in the cafeteria where Belgian waffles and strawberries made a nice breakfast ($9+ after tax). Then …

Last minute things...

I tested out my old raincoat in this mornings rain and it failed miserably... thats why I am getting a new one!
Been busy booking places to stay, and making contact with my 2nd cousins in and around Vancouver. Looking forward to meeting some for the first time and some for the first time since the 1970s.

Equipment for adventure...

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I don't want to lug a heavy load around on my travels so am aiming to keep all my katundu below 15kg. Might not be possible but that is my target.
This is the tent I shall be learning to live in for a fair amount during the course of my N American adventure. A Mountain Equipment AR Ultralite 2 weighing in at 1.5kg which is not as ultra light as you can get but does have a greater resistance to water which I hope I will appreciate when it pours as it seems likely to do! I may leave the poles behind and use my Leki walking poles instead which will reduce the weight by 200g! I will also carry a lightweight sleeping mat which rolls up very small and only weighs 750g.
This is the minimalist stove which weighs 425g and is ideal for all the freeze-dry food I'll pick up in Vancouver to keep me going between the occasional coffee shop or fast food place I might happen to drop into.... for the free wifi so I can update this blog, not for the breakfast pancakes or muffins or the odd burge…

North American Adventure or self indulgent behaviour?

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May be it is the old Quaker genes finding an outlet, or maybe it is because since my earliest days I have had my  travel through Africa, Asia and Europe paid for me, but I have always felt hesitant about spending money on travelling purely for my own pleasure! Well, I have come to the conclusion that now is the time to break the habit of a lifetime, I have even got some dubious justifications to back me up...
I have passed the half century...I am told that fifty is supposed to be the "new forty and strangely,I feel younger every year...It is quite possible that before I know it I will have regressed to my teenage years, and further...  and that will mean that the children will be tending to my every need and clearing up after me... (please take note boys :-)) So, I needed to gather my courage and do something exciting before it happened!
As a result of this slightly peculiar train of thought I came up with a plan to cross the N American continent from West to East. 
As those who kno…

Ancestral Abodes

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I have spent many, many, many hours (and a few pennies) keeping the family heritage websites in business over the last 18 months. My interest emerged as a consequence of
a) advancing age, b) increasingly vague remembrance of stories told eons ago my grandmothers Celia and Maisie TV's 'Who do you think you are?' and4 suitcases of photos and letters handed to me by my eldest aunt.------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------


 2 years ago I visited two houses close to Loch Leven, Orwell Farm where Maisie was born in 1901 and Grahamston Farm where her mother had been brought up.



















Grahamstone was farmed by  Alexander Dickie (born 1829). The land making up the farm was exposed after the water level of Loch Leven was lowered with the opening of  'The cut' in 1830 which exposed 1100 acres of land for farming.

These days the farm produces acre upon acre of turf.


Last month I took advantage of a visit to my son in Birmin…